This article is the beginning of a series on forming a band of brothers. Ron and I have written and shared our experience of going through Exodus 90. It is transformative. The problem that I have continually encountered when encouraging other men to take the plunge is that they don’t know where to start in recruiting and finding other men to join them on the journey.
The series will begin by identifying the problem of falling short of the type of spiritual leadership we are all called to and how we can develop the skills needed by forming a band of brothers to provide encouragement, reproof, a call to action and a little heckling when needed.
It is not difficult to see throughout the landscape of Christianity today that there has been a massive shift in the way that men experience, engage and live their faith in Christ. Many men have accepted this shift and it has resulted in a view of religion as simply an add on or merely a weekly enrichment opportunity. Ron and I noticed this common undertone in men, not because we have it all figured out, but rather we were living with the same sentiments but desired more.
The paradigm shift in Christian men and the way that we view and experience religion has in large part resulted in a spiritual fatherlessness. We all know and can sight the studies demonstrating the fact that when a father is physically absent, as is all too common in our society, the result is devastating to the family. Families endure much higher rates of poverty, behavioral problems, prison, drugs, abuse and neglect and I can go on. But what happens when a father is physically present in a family but has abnegated his role given to him by God to be the spiritual leader?
Here are a few statistics that may tell us the answer:
- Only 30 % of Americans who were raised Catholic still practice their faith 
- 38% hold on to their Catholic identity but seldom or never attend Mass 
- 32% of adults who were raised Catholic in the United States no longer consider themselves to be Catholic at all. 
- The number of marriages celebrated in the Church has dropped 60% between 1972 and 2010 
- “If a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only 1 child in 50 will become a worshipper”.
These staggering numbers indicate that there is a battle that exists which is laying waste to our families and men play a key role, no THE key role, in recognizing it and addressing the threat. There are clear cultural signs that the battle is real and it will take an intentional engagement by men like you and me to stage the necessary counter assault.
Ron and I found ourselves on the fringes of the battle field and had fallen victim to the systematic sedation of men which is so prevalent today. In 2015, Bishop Olmsted issued a powerful Apostolic Exhortation to Catholic Men titled Into the Breach, in which he delivered a “Braveheart” like battle cry. Olmsted has called for all Christian men to recognize that there is a real spiritual battle taking place and is calling you and I out…”will you fight?”
“Do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you” – Bishop Olmsted
Through our experience and passionate desire for other men like you to awaken to the great Theo drama that we are all called to play a role in, the mission of Intentional Encounter was born. Our mission is to reclaim authentic manhood and encounter the person of Christ by gaining self-mastery through fitness, clean eating and a renewed prayer life. There is a dire need for Christian men to discover their true identity in Christ, and we want to provide you with a battle plan for encountering Him so that you can become the man you were made to be.
Saint Paul pointed to the link between the Physical and Spiritual life of a person when he said “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Cor 9:25).
We found that training the body is the proper starting point for men because we are hard wired to be physically active, protectors, fighters…warriors. We all relate to the desire to feel better physically and remain active as we grow old. This is why we provide a way to train the body through physical exercise and proper nutrition so as to reclaim the athlete that many men once knew in themselves or desire to experience for the first time.
Through training the body we can change the trajectory of our physical health. Physical training requires discipline, however, its reward is perishable. Looking at the words of St. Paul we can see that the transformation of the athlete through self-mastery has a transcendent dimension and presses us towards a deeper spiritual health which never perishes. Spiritual wellness is a process just like training the body, but it never fades, rather it points us to our eternal reward.
Rather than just a great “Go get ‘em” speech, we want to provide you with some practical skills and actionable steps that you can take to develop a relationship with Christ and begin to make the walk with other like-minded Christian men who are crucial for victory.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17)
A crucial dimension to developing into a strong spiritual leader is the fraternity of other Catholic men. Bishop Olmsted recognized this great need in his treatise when he said “Men who have bonds of brotherhood with other Catholic men pray more, go to Mass and Confession more frequently, read the Scriptures more often, and are more active in the Faith”.
Forming a band of bothers is THE critical component for developing spiritual leadership, which our families are in desperate need of. In the coming weeks I would like to share with you some common pit falls that we all experience in developing meaningful friendships and a practical guide for identifying and overcoming these obstacles.
“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)
1 Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus – Sherry A. Weddel